“Let me be honest with you, John,” she began, “I’m here for two reasons. You need to be completely aware of what is going on, and what you are getting yourself into. That’s the first reason. The second reason is we want to know who you are, so we can understand Etty’s choices.”
“I think we’re getting to the second reason first.” He commented, as he leaned back into the chair. “So, I guess we could start on the first one now. What have I gotten myself into, falling in love at first sight?”
Ginga nodded, and gave John a brief lecture about the nature of the spirit world in comparison to the human realm. He took it with barely a nod, and asked her to continue. She explained the Great Wager that led to the First Born, and the subsequent generations of longer-lived, but less powerful beings.
“You’re telling me my… fiancée… is one of the First Born, and displaced in time?” John asked. The expression on his face was like someone tasting something for the first time, and not quite sure what to make of it.
“Exactly. She’s much, much, more powerful than we are.” Ginga twiddled her thumbs in vexation, because there wasn’t any good way to tell him something else he needed to know. “I feel very strange talking about my little girl this way, but it needs to be out in the open. Would it bother you if I were incredibly blunt for just a moment?”
“Not at all, ma’am. I’d prefer it.”
“The First Born had another characteristic, besides enormous power, and an atypical short lifespan. Most of them were insane.”
“Oh. Do you think she’s out of her mind?”
Ginga thought about her little girl, and tried to point to something that would indicate she was any more or less unbalanced than any adolescent in the universe. Nothing other than her current course of action gave Ginga pause… Etty’s declaration that her purpose and power was to break the rules, was frightening enough.
“No. I’m almost more worried that, up until yesterday, she seemed completely normal. None of our elders, storytellers, or historians speak of insanity appearing in that first generation. They were all crazy from the start.”
John nodded, and awkwardly reached out and rested his hand on top of Ginga’s fiddling thumbs.
“I’m really sorry. I can see how worried you are everything.”
She thanked him.
It was sheer luck that his reaction was compassion and not anger. While Etty might understand if she’d been forced to kill him in self-defense (since her powers didn’t include mind control), it didn’t mean she’d be forgiven. From that practical perspective, it was good he genuinely cared. On the personal side, she felt more comfortable talking with him, and (if the relationship progressed) would like having him as a friend.
“You know, with all this talk about scary things, I wanted to ask you what it was like to cross over and meet her. Will you share your memories with me?”
“Sure, Mrs. Pendy.” John said, and related his experience on the other side of the mist.
Her ears perked up when he spoke of Etty asking if he accepted her.
“How many times did she ask you if you accepted her?”
“Ah,” she nodded, “and what did Etty say after the third time you answered ‘yes’? Do you remember the exact words, by any chance?”
John looked thoughtful for a moment, and nodded.
“I think it was something like this, ‘Three times questioned, and three times answered. I accept you, John Frost. By hearth, home, and heart, I accept you.’”
Ginga exhaled, and put her face in her hands. John frowned, concerned that he’d done or said something wrong.
His guest laughed without humor, and sat back against the futon. Her dark eyes regarded him, and he couldn’t read her expression.
“Well, that changes everything.”
“Oh?” John asked, worried.
“Yes. We now have formalities to observe.” She said, gestured to him to stand up, and stood up as well. “Give me your hands, John.”
He did as he was told.
“John Frost—true love, mate, and companion of my daughter—I welcome you into the bosom of our family. By hearth, home, and heart, I accept you as my son as surely as Etty is my daughter.”
John looked a little pale in the bright light of his living room. He felt the familiar sensation of falling into something much bigger than he ever expected.
“Ah. What? Um.”
Ginga nodded. She completely understood the facial expressions of someone discovering they were wading in deep water without a lifeline.
“John, she didn’t just meet you: she married you.”